5th May 2016, Egmont, 320 pages, Paperback, Review copy
One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?
12 crime themed stories by 12 popular children's crime writers. You may be wondering who the Crime Club members are, so I will tell you. They include Clementine Beauvais, Elen Caldecott, Susie Day, Julia Golding, Frances Hardinge, Caroline Lawrence, Helen Moss, Sally Nicholls, Kate Pankhurst, Robin Stevens, Harriet Whitehorn and Katherine Woodfine.
I've read novels by most of them, so it was fun discovering the new to me authors as well as reading from my favourites. The book was cleverly divided into 4 sections, with a forward for each explaining about the category of crimes. There were a couple of stories I couldn't get into so I left them and moved on to the next. I'm going to pick 1 story from each category and chat about it.
Impossible Mysteries: Rain On My Parade by Elen Caldecott is full of feathers, drama and intrigue when a carnival costume within a locked room is mysteriously ruined. I had no idea who did it so the culprit was a pleasant shrprise. I enjoyed Minnie's enthusiasm, her ability to sift through the evidence and put almost invisible clues together in her mind to find the culprit. You can see a review for Ellen's book The Mystery of Wickworth Manor by Elen Caldecott (Children's, 9 years +, 9/10)
Canine Capers: While not being fond of dogs in real life-I'm very much a cat and small animal girl, I love them in fiction, and have read many books where dogs go missing (as well as ones where the dog helps the detective). I'm picking Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskervilles by Julia Golding. This was a surprise read as I honestly expected it to be too scary for me to carry on reading. I fell in love with the unusual detective team, and am eager to read more of their adventres in Julie's books. They have fun while solving the case, have unusual personalities and I'm thrilled to have met them.
Poison Plots I choose the Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss, because one of the detectives, Catherine, is my favourite character. I adored the secret sentemce she uses to talk wih her partner, whose identty and name are intriguing, i liked having a foot in both the staff and family within the house, because that was the only way to get all the clues to solve the murder. I was very disappointed when the story ended because I wanted it to continue!
For the final section, Closed-System Crimes I choose the Mystery of the Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfime due to the delightful amount of drama going on backstage when a diva's pearls are stolen at a theatre. Really it is melodrama, which made it even funnier. I mean missing pearls aren't on the same scale as someone being poisoned or even missing dogs, and yet I was gripped from start to finish, and yet again sad when the story ended. How the pearls went missing and who took them was a clever twist, with so many accused and able to be the guilty party until logic was applied.
Overall this is a superb book, a great way to sample varus auior's work without committing to 12 different novels before knowing if you like an author. As part of this blog tour Kate Pankhurst, author of Dazzle, Dog Biscuits and Disaster which narrowly missed being my top tail in the Canine Capers section (It os so very clever how red herrings appeared in the missing Dazzle the dog mystery, and the high stakes nor just for Dazzle), has written a post for you to read!
Detective Dreams by Kate Pankhurst
I had many childhood ‘phases’ inspired by film, books and TV. There was the Indiana Jones phase – I was fixated on becoming a globe trotting archaeologist who knew cool stuff about ancient dusty objects and laughed in the face of danger. Then followed the Mallory Towers/St Trinian’s phase, which involved hopes of being sent to boarding school (by my cold uncaring parents) where I would collect lots of prefect badges and fend for myself.
Bit of a problem with both of those phases – I didn’t know much about ancient dusty stuff and we just weren’t very posh so being sent away to boarding school was never going to happen. Also, much to my disappointment my parents quite liked me so there was no dramatic story involving finding my my own way in the world with only my dorm mates and a matronly teacher for support. BORING.
But then came the detective phase and the realisation that mystery, unlike The Temple of Doom, could be lurking close by! Maybe in the Not So Innocent Old Lady Next Door’s house? Or in an undiscovered box concealed under the floorboards of my bedroom by a family with a dark secret who once lived in our house. Or in my high school drama studio – was it actually haunted, like ashen faced pupils and teachers swore it was?
Daydreams of mystery were definitely the best because there was always the chance that they might not remain day dreams – that it might be me who could be clever and brave enough to crack the case. To fuel my obsession/pick up tips on being a top detective I devoured all things mystery, from books I didn’t really understand to ITV dramas. I wasn’t fussy as long as I could imagine me and the starring detective being mates. I’d start of as their sidekick but I’d quickly progress to being one of those sidekicks who knew more than the leading detective …
George from the Famous Five by Enid Blyton: I felt me and George had a lot in common. I was a tomboy and admired that George didn’t seem to give one of Aunt Fanny’s jam sandwiches that she was frequently mistaken for a boy. I liked to think that we’d form our own breakaway mystery solving duo. The Terribly Talented Two, or something. Then, we’d take the Famous Five’s dog (Timmy) with us as we headed out to sea in a rowing boat bathed in moonlight to find a smugglers cove.
Penny from Inspector Gadget: OK, Inspector Gadget may have had a cool hat with an extendable arm inside it but Penny was the undisputed brains behind his success. I longed for the day when you could buy a watch, just like Penny’s, that was a computer able to do all sorts of crazy stuff. For many long hours during the 1980s I resorted to using my brother’s Speak and Spell as a sophisticated communication device. **Rushes out to purchase an iwatch so my fantasy of being just like Penny can finally come true**.
Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot: Well, the ITV drama adaptation, starring a meticulously moustachioed and continental David Suchet. The only man/adult in my list of inspiring childhood detectives, I loved Poirot because he seemed like a nice unassuming chap, but mess with him and you’d be sorry. Also, Poirot’s cases involved actual coldblooded murder. MURDER! On a Sunday afternoon! And I was allowed to watch it, because I was very grown up (or liked to think I was) and could definitely handle solving a real life murder. The fact that while watching I never had any inkling who the murderer might be and was always completely shocked by Poirot’s revelations didn’t put me off imagining that I had it in me to be an Agatha Christie-esque old fashioned super sleuth. One who probably who wore pearls and a pair of sensible shoes.
I did dip my toe in to some further Agatha Christie reading borrowed from the local library. Aged eleven it went over my head, but still, I liked the idea that everyone said ooooh, look, she’s reading Agatha Christie! As if I was very advanced for my age.
Velma from Scooby Doo: As a child it was Scooby Doo’s Daphne who I was fixated on, mostly because of the funky dress and cool purple tights. But I see clearly now that Velma, with her astute mind, practical orange chunky knit jumper and thick rimmed glasses, was undoubtedly the best detective on the Mystery Machine. I suppose Fred and Daphne made useful assistants, but I’ll never quite understand why Velma insisted on hanging around with Scooby and Shaggy. If it wasn’t for their faffing around she’d solve the case in five seconds flat, and get to the glory of the if it wasn’t for you meddling kids bit much faster.
The All American Girl Detective: I can’t pin this down to a single mystery novel, comic or film – she’s a combination of lots of different American influences. She’s the girl who lives in a tree lined US suburb, has a Chopper bike, an actual land line phone in her bedroom, a best friend who lives next door and an ideally placed tree by her bedroom window allowing her to sneak out and conduct secret midnight investigations. I wanted all of those things and it was hugely frustrating that my bedroom window hardly opened far enough to get an arm out of. No good for sneaking anywhere unnoticed by my parents, I did have an under bed detective HQ though. There wasn’t much headroom, but it was top secret.
I’d love to say that all the time I spent imagining myself solving mysteries and now, writing mystery fiction, meant that I actually did solve a huge real life mystery. I never have.
The closest I came was embarking on a research trip to my local library with friends (aged twelve-ish) to see if we could uncover any truth behind that rumour the school drama studio was haunted. I imagined the spine tingling anticipation I’d feel scrolling through old newspapers on a microfiche machine (who knows if the local library even had one of those but they had them in films). I’d discover a long forgotten news story about the unsolved murder of a student who came to a sticky end in our now haunted drama studio …
The reality was that no sooner did we decide we must investigate, the idea was unanimously abandoned for fear that if we did actually discover any ghostly truths we’d be so scared we’d suffer hysteria and terrible nightmares for the rest of our lives.
I may never have actually solved a real life mystery but what the detective genre helped me to develop was an over active imagination (very important for my chosen career). It made me think about my own ambitions for the future and that maybe, just maybe, if the fictional detectives I admired could be the clever ones who knew what to do, perhaps things wouldn’t end too badly if I had a go at that too. (If only I could get over being a bit of a wimp.)
I love the idea that young lovers of mystery today get the same buzz imagining what it would be like to be in the shoes of the fictional detectives they can’t get enough of.
Find out more on Kate's website.